Attracting Hummingbirds to Your Garden

Hummingbirds can be a charming addition to any garden. Seeing one of these beautiful birds effortlessly float above a flower in search of nectar explains why many gardeners go out of their way to attract them to their yard.

While there are hundreds of different species, the ruby-throated hummingbird is the only species commonly found in Iowa. The male is easily recognizable by its emerald green back, white breast, and brilliant red throat. The female is similar in coloring, but lacking the red throat.

The first step in attracting hummingbirds is planting flowers that appeal to them. Hummingbirds are most attracted to flowers that have tubular flowers that are red, pink, or fuchsia in color. When choosing plants, a combination of annuals, perennials, trees, and shrubs that bloom at different intervals will attract them for the longest period of time. (A list of plants that attract hummingbirds is provided at the end of this article.)

After establishing a hummingbird garden, a feeder can be hung to further encourage their visits. Feeders, however, require regular maintenance. Carefully consider the time and dedication you are willing to put into feeding them before starting. Hummingbirds will not drink from a feeder that is not kept sanitary. The feeders need to be cleaned with warm water each time they are refilled and washed with bleach once a month throughout the summer feeding period.

Most commonly available feeders have red plastic parts resembling the flowers that attract hummingbirds. They can be filled with a mixture of one part sugar to four parts water. The water should be boiled and then measured. Finally, the sugar can be dissolved in the warm water. Preparing the mixture in this order will maintain the proper proportions of sugar and water.

Four-O-Clocks (Mirabilis jalapa)
Fuchsia (Fuchsia x hybrida)
Impatiens (Impatiens wallerana)
Morning Glory (Ipomoea purpurea)
Nicotiana (Nicotiana alata)
Petunia (Petunia x hybrida)
Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans)
Red Salvia (Salvia splendens)
Scarlet Runner Bean (Phaseolus coccineus)
Shrimp Plant (Beloperone guttata)
Zinnia (Zinnia elegans)

Bee Balm (Monarda didyma)
Canna (Canna x generalis)
Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)
Coral Bells (Heuchera sanguinea)
Delphinium (Delphinium x elatum)
Daylily (Hemerocallis species)
Gladiola (Gladiolus x hortulanus)
Hibiscus (Hibiscus species)
Hollyhock (Alcea rosea)
Hosta (Hosta species)
Liatris (Liatris spicata)
Lily (Lilium species)
Lobelia (Lobelia cardinalis)
Penstemon (Penstemon barbatus)
Phlox (Phlox paniculata)
Russell Hybrid Lupine (Lupinus 'Russell
Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans)
Yucca (Yucca filamentosa)

Bottlebrush (Aesculus parviflora)
Coralberry (Symphoricarpos orbiculatus)
Lilac (Syringa species)
Red Prince Weigela (Weigela florida 'Red Prince')

Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia)
Northern Catalpa (Catalpa speciosa)

This article originally appeared in the June 9, 2000 issue, pp. 67-68.


Links to this article are strongly encouraged, and this article may be republished without further permission if published as written and if credit is given to the author, Yard and Garden, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. If this article is to be used in any other manner, permission from the author is required. This article was originally published on June 9, 2000. The information contained within may not be the most current and accurate depending on when it is accessed.